“Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education.” ~Food writer Alice Waters
I did not grow up visiting farmers markets. This isn’t because my parents wouldn’t have wanted to go, but simply because there wasn’t a market near us. We still ate plenty of vegetables, not only from the grocery store, but also from neighbors who had gardens and shared the bounty, demonstrating what “community” is all about.
I remember my dad coming home from work with a bushel of beans to shell or peas to snap, and, though my fingers grew weary of doing those jobs, I always felt pleased with the end product: a large stainless steel bowl full of shelled peas, for example, that I then looked forward to eating for dinner.
I remember our pastor, Bro. Ron Wagner, bringing my mom a beautiful bounty of blueberries that he and Mrs. Shirley had picked from the bushes on their property. Mom was always so very proud of those berries, and loved making pancakes, cobblers, and tender breakfast muffins with them.
Well, not everyone has those opportunities anymore, whether it be because neighbors don’t know each other as well as they used to, or perhaps because they don’t have time to garden with today’s more hectic lifestyle. That’s where the farmers market comes in.
During the spring and summer, in addition to locally-owned grocery stores, I visit the farmers market as often as I can. Since the produce at a farmers market is grown by a family or individual in your area, he or she likely picked it the day before, or even the day of, the market. That freshness pays off in several ways: nutritionally, because nutrients and enzymes have more opportunity to develop while the fruit or vegetable is still on the vine, and also in flavor, because ripening on the plant leads to a much fuller taste in the end product than does something picked green and shipped hundreds of miles.
But it’s not just about the tasty, nutritious foods (and the wide variety of them) that farmers markets offer that I love. It’s that word again: community. Community develops around a farmers market.
If you go to your local market every time the farmers gather, you will begin to know the farmers, who will tell you how to prepare the produce, especially when they bring some interesting new item to sell that you may not have tried before. They’ll tell you about their farm, and about when things were picked, and anything else you might want to know.
Not only that, you’ll get to know the other customers who gather each time the farmers arrive. I smile each time I overhear the conversations of people catching up with one another over a table of beautiful bell peppers and green tomatoes; the “how’s your mama and them?” kinds of conversations we get too busy to have sometimes. Within the cheerful, friendly atmosphere of a farmers market, those conversations just seem to flow more easily.
And parents, I have found that when children help pick out the fruits and vegetables from the tables and bins at the market, they’re more interested in eating what they chose, and may even want to watch or pitch in as it is prepared in the kitchen. It’s beneficial for them to be involved in learning these life skills of healthy eating and cooking for themselves, at home, in the family kitchen.
When I was at the SaltAir market in Port St. Joe, I saw more than just gorgeous produce, of course. There was a musician playing his guitar and singing, and there were artisans, including one woman from whom I bought a lovely pair of earrings she made out of tiny shells. There were handicrafts, preserved foods, baked goods, and pieces of art, as well. There is nothing I love more, even when I’m alone, than grabbing a coffee from the nearby coffee shop and strolling through the market, looking and listening and smelling the scent of fresh peaches or berries or warm, fat tomatoes. That’s entertainment!
When you are able to buy peaches and berries in season, I hope you’ll try my easy and delicious coffee cake recipe. I love the way the tender, moist cake contrasts with the warm, sweet peaches and berries. It’s wonderful with coffee for breakfast, or with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream for a luscious dessert.
Steph’s Blueberry Peach Coffee Cake
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or ¼ tsp almond extract, if you prefer, or a blend of both)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups blueberries, rinsed, picked over and drained (thaw and drain first if using frozen berries)
1 small- to medium-sized peach, halved, pitted, and cut into slices
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (or spray with Baker’s Joy) a 9-inch round cake pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Alternatively, use a 9-inch spring form pan, and grease and flour the inside of pan.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of flour with baking powder and salt; set aside.
Using a mixer, beat the butter on medium high speed for 2 minutes. Then add the sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about a minute more.
Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well-blended. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour, beating until smooth, but don’t over-beat. A minute should be adequate.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
Combine the berries and peaches with a teaspoon of flour and the lemon juice in a bowl. Spread the fruit mixture over the top of the cake in a single layer.
Bake on middle rack in oven at 350°F for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
Use a butter knife to slide around the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Transfer the cake to a cake plate, berry side up.
You could sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar before serving, or drizzle with a powdered sugar glaze, or even with maple or blueberry syrup at breakfast.
Let me know how you like it; enjoy!
You might also like this rustic blueberry-peach galette!
Copyright 2016 Stephanie Hill-Frazier. All rights reserved.